Bill deadline day: changes due as talks break
By Sara Marett
As round two of talks between the Ministry of Education and Ontario teachers' federations broke down last night, it remains to be seen whether an end to the now 10-day-old province-wide teachers strike is in sight.
With the deadline for amendments to Bill 160 at 5 p.m. tonight, the two groups have limited time to come to an agreement.
Discussion between the two parties continued yesterday under a media blackout until around 8 p.m., when Eileen Lennon, president of the Ontario Teachers' Federation, held a televised press conference announcing the inability for the groups to successfully compromise on elements of the Bill.
"In spite of the fact that teachers met every one of the government's objectives, it was still not enough," Lennon said. Teachers put forward proposals which would have students spending more time in the classroom than the national average, she said.
Minister of Education Dave Johnson said in a televised press conference he was frustrated the teachers walked away from the bargaining table. He said he proposed to have students in the classroom for the national average time, but the teachers would not accept this proposal.
On Monday, Johnson encouraged school boards to approach the Ontario Labour Relations Board to send the teachers back to work. The Board, however, reported yesterday that it has not received any applications from any school boards. Voy Stelmaszynski, a solicitor for the Board, said any individual or board can file an application for a declaration from a court that the strike is illegal.
Depending on who files the application and who it brings action against, both parties would have the opportunity to respond, he said. It would then go to court to determine whether a cease and desist order would be issued for the teachers to go back to work, Stelmaszynski said.
London Board of Education trustee Robert Vaughan said he wants the London school board to approach the Labour Relations Board to file an application. "It is our job as their employer to force them back to work. There, they can continue their protest in a more constructive way and the children will no longer be hurt," he said.
Fellow Board trustee Linda Freeman however, disagrees with Vaughan and does not think there is any point in school boards approaching the Labour Relations Board.
"There is no point having a court decide whether or not the strike is illegal the teachers have already admitted that it is," she said.
As the strike continues, students may begin to wonder at what point their education will be irreparably affected by the strike. The Ontario University Application Centre said the strike must go on for three weeks before they alter the date of applications for OAC students to attend university. "Even if we have to push back the deadline, students and universities will not suffer," said executive director Gregory Marcolte.